Marketing Planning Amid Uncertainty

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How can marketers plan for uncertainty?


In a world that seems to be constantly changing, planning for uncertainty is a necessity. For marketers, this couldn't be more true. In a time forever impacted by COVID-19, inflation, as well as fast-paced technological and cultural changes, marketers and brands need to be agile to meet the needs and wants of consumers — and to speak with consumers authentically if they want to not only connect but find solutions to pain points.

"Brands may be tempted to resort to their old playbooks by raising prices, cutting margins, or sacrificing quality, [however,] the amount of data and visibility that brands experience now can help manage these difficult times," stated a recent ANA Marketing Futures Pulse

To survive in this landscape means marrying data with creative as a key strategy; this can come in the form of an "investor mindset," which consultant firm BCG recommended, stating, "Adopting an investor mindset can help CMOs be more confident in their decision making and garner greater support throughout the organization at a time when uncertainty and disruption are givens.

The nimble CMO emulates the behaviors and borrows the playbooks of sophisticated investors, who maintain a metrics-based and continuously updated perspective on short- and long-term return expectations as price, cost, and risk scenarios evolve. In contrast to the traditional backward-looking and more rigid approaches to allocating marketing funds, this new approach is highly fluid and future-oriented."

The following resources provide insight on how marketers can plan for uncertainty, including economic instability, business volatility, inflation, and recessions.


Resources

  • Uncertain Times Call for Agile Strategic Planning in Marketing. Gartner, April 2022.
    This Gartner report says that "fast-changing events with global impact — like COVID-19 or the Russian invasion of Ukraine — can upend strategic plans, requiring rapid shifts. CMOs and marketing leaders are expected to react with speed and agility. Yet many organizations still rely on a traditional, time-intensive approach to strategic planning that produces a rigid, proscriptive result. If circumstances change — and they always change — the existing plan becomes moot. Agile strategic planning provides an alternative to traditional approaches. In contrast to static 18- to 36-month planning models, agile approaches embrace a cycle of continuous planning, evaluation and refinement in response to change."



  • Ignition Guide: Scenario Planning for Marketing. Gartner, 2022.
    An additional Gartner report suggests: "To succeed in the current volatile business environment, CMOs must anticipate the future and create suitable action plans to stay ahead of market disruption. Forward-thinking CMOs must explore the use of scenario planning as a marketing strategy enablement tool to navigate this increasingly complex marketing landscape."

    This guide serves as a "workbook to help marketing leaders set up a robust framework for scenario planning, build out realistic, multivariable scenarios and prepare the organization to act when scenarios materialize. CMOs can use this step-by-step guide to:
    • Identify the impact of different corporate scenarios on the marketing function
    • Plan for changes to the marketing strategy and initiatives
    • Communicate the scenario-specific actions
  • Inflation Shouldn't Deflate Success: How Brands Can Deal with Rising Prices. ANA, February 2022.
    The world is seeing price inflation on a scale that hasn't been experienced in 40 years. While brands may be tempted to resort to their old playbooks by raising prices, cutting margins, or sacrificing quality, the amount of data and visibility that brands experience now can help manage these difficult times. Nuanced information about markets, consumers, and suppliers allows marketers to choose where and when to change prices or margins and provide an opportunity to optimize their promotions around the products most affected. The resources collected here provide insight into how consumers are dealing with inflation, and how brands can positively respond.

  • How Marketers Should Adapt to Rising Inflation. Advertising Age, December 2021.
    This article shares lessons from Walmart, Dollar Shave Club, Chipotle and McDonald's, on how to thrive during an inflation. It includes a quote from Gary Stibel, founder, and CEO of New England Consulting Group, who says that when brands do raise prices, they'd better be discreet. "Too many brands are like deer in the headlights," Stibel said. "They take naked pricing. They render themselves vulnerable. They're scared to change package sizes." But he said smart marketers will use every way they can to avoid noticeable price increases that people will resist. That includes reducing package sizes, launching loyalty programs, offering value packs that offset higher prices, and making noticeable product improvements that could justify a higher price.

  • How Nimble CMOs Invest their Marketing Budgets. BCG, April 2021.
    Consultant firm BCG says, "Adopting an investor mindset can help CMOs be more confident in their decision making and garner greater support throughout the organization at a time when uncertainty and disruption are givens. The nimble CMO emulates the behaviors and borrows the playbooks of sophisticated investors, who maintain a metrics-based and continuously updated perspective on short- and long-term return expectations as price, cost, and risk scenarios evolve. In contrast to the traditional backward-looking and more rigid approaches to allocating marketing funds, this new approach is highly fluid and future-oriented."




  • How to Be an Agile Marketer. ANA, February 2021.
    Agile marketing can provide more effective ways to handle disruptions and turn them into opportunities rather than challenges. Letting go of conventional, somewhat comfortable marketing strategies in favor of more experiments and testing can be difficult to make a business case for, but it is not impossible. If anything, adopting a fast-paced test and learn culture is part of being a true innovator. This issue of Ask the Expert Answers collects resources describing how to adopt an agile marketing approach.

The Marketing Knowledge Center actively connects ANA members to the resources they need to be successful. You can visit the ANA website to engage with the MKC in three ways.

  • Explore content to access best practices, case studies, and marketing tools. Our proprietary content includes Event Recaps, which share actionable insights from conference and committee presentations.
  • Connect with our Ask the Expert team in real time for customized answers to your specific marketing challenges.
  • Stay on top of trends with Marketing Futures Pulse issues, which explore how new technologies and innovations will affect marketers and consumers alike. 

Submit a request to Ask the Expert here.

Source

"Marketing Planning Amid Uncertainty." ANA, 2022.